Tuesday, April 28, 2009

World health officials raised a global alert on Swine Flu

MEXICO CITY – World health officials raised a global alert to an unprecedented level as swine flu was blamed for more deaths in Mexico and the epidemic crossed new borders, with the first cases confirmed Tuesday in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions.

With the swine flu having already spread to at least six other countries, authorities around the globe are like firefighters battling a blaze without knowing how far it extends.

"At this time, containment is not a feasible option," said Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization, which raised its alert level on Monday.

New Zealand confirmed that 11 people who recently returned from Mexico contracted the virus, Health Minister Tony Ryall said. Laboratory tests on samples from three of the 11 came back positive and "on that basis we are assuming" the eight others are also infected, he said.

Those infected had suffered only "mild illness" and were expected to recover, Public Health Director Mark Jacobs said.

In the Israeli city of Netanya, hospital officials said a 26-year-old patient recently returned from Mexico was the region's first confirmed case of swine flu, but did not know whether the patient had the same strain as the one that appeared in Mexico.

Dr. Avinoam Skolnik, Laniado Hospital's medical director, said Israeli Health Ministry laboratory tests confirmed the virus but the patient has fully recovered and is in "excellent condition."

Meanwhile, a second case was confirmed Tuesday in Spain, Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez said, a day after the country reported its first case. The 23-year-old student, one of 26 patients under observation, was not in serious condition, Jimenez said.

With the virus spreading, the U.S. prepared for the worst even as President Barack Obama tried to reassure Americans.

At the White House, a swine flu update was added to Obama's daily intelligence briefing. Obama said the outbreak is "not a cause for alarm," even as the U.S. stepped up checks of people entering the country and warned U.S. citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico.

"We are proceeding as if we are preparatory to a full pandemic," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The European Union health commissioner suggested that Europeans avoid nonessential travel both to Mexico and parts of the United States. Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus.

Mexico, where the number of deaths believed caused by swine flu rose by 50 percent on Monday to 152, is suspected to be ground zero of the outbreak. But Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova late Monday said no one knows where the outbreak began, and implied it may have started in the U.S.

"I think it is very risky to say, or want to say, what the point of origin or dissemination of it is, given that there had already been cases reported in southern California and Texas," Cordova told a press conference.

It's still not clear when the first case occurred, making it impossible thus far to determine where the breakout started.

Dr. Nancy Cox of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said she believes the earliest onset of swine flu in the United States happened on March 28. Cordova said a sample taken from a 4-year-old boy in Mexico's Veracruz state in early April tested positive for swine flu. However, it is not known when the boy, who later recovered, became infected.

The World Health Organization raised the alert level to Phase 4, meaning there is sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus causing outbreaks in at least one country. Monday was the first time it has ever been raised above Phase 3.

Rest of Story http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090428/ap_on_he_me/med_swine_flu

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